Laura Sydell

Laura Sydell fell in love with the intimate storytelling qualities of radio, which combined her passion for theatre and writing with her addiction to news. She's covered politics, arts, media, religion, entrepreneurship, and most recently she became the Arts & Technology Correspondent for the NPR newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.

Sydell considers it incredibly exciting to be reporting on the ways in which technology is changing our culture. She enjoys telling the stories of everyone from high-profile CEOs, to small inventors such as a Berkeley man who developed a revolutionary book-binding machine in his basement that could transform the publishing industry. She sees the beat as an opportunity to help listeners understand how technology is changing the way we create and live.

As a senior technology reporter on Public Radio International's Marketplace, Sydell looked at the human impact of new technologies and the personalities behind the Silicon Valley boom and bust.

Before coming to San Francisco, Sydell was based in New York City where she worked as a reporter for NPR member station WNYC. There, her reports on race relations, city politics, and arts won numerous awards from The Newswomen's Club of New York, The New York Press Club, The Society of Professional Journalists, and others. She has also produced long-form radio documentaries that focused on individuals whose life experiences turned them into activists. American Women in Radio and Television, The National Federation of Community Broadcasters, and Women in Communications have all honored her documentary work.

After finishing a one-year fellowship with the National Arts Journalism Program at Columbia University, Sydell came to San Francisco as a teaching fellow at the Graduate School of Journalism at University of California, Berkeley.

Among her all-time favorite pieces are her profile of a private eye who found a way to incorporate Buddhist faith into her job by working exclusively on death penalty cases, and the story of a mother's devotion to a son charged with a brutal murder and the bus that carries her and others with incarcerated family members from New York City to a prison upstate.

Sydell has a bachelor's degree from William Smith College in Geneva, New York, and a J.D. from Yeshiva University's Cardozo School of Law. She lives in San Francisco and laments the fact that she is too busy to have a dog.

 

Tomas Villegas was looking for information about a product on YouTube, but couldn't find it. "So I thought, well, I'm sure there's other people looking for it. So I made a video."

Four years later, Villegas, who works at a technical college, has a side business doing product reviews on his YouTube channel. He found that adding a little music really improved his videos.

"It just adds that third dimension that is missing sometimes," he says.

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of the man who invented recorded sound — Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville. He beat the more well-known inventor Thomas Edison by 20 years, though his accomplishments were only recognized over the last decade.

While the uses of recorded sound seem obvious now — music, news, voice messages — none of it was obvious to Scott or Edison when they made the first recordings. It's a story that has some lessons for today's aspiring inventors.

The Circle, the film based on the novel by Dave Eggers, presents a dystopian view of the direction Silicon Valley is taking the world. And, as a longtime Silicon Valley correspondent, I have to say there is a lot that this comic and spooky film gets right.

Video of a murder uploaded to Facebook this week upset many users, especially since it took Facebook two hours to take it down. But the incident illustrates a dilemma for the company as it becomes an open platform for both recorded and livestreamed video.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was contrite about the incident when he appeared on stage at the company's F8 developer's conference.

It's been lean times for some of YouTube's most popular video producers. In the last two weeks ad rates have gone down as much as 75 percent. The producers are caught up in a struggle between advertisers and YouTube over ad placement.

In recent weeks, reports showed ads from major brands placed with extremist and anti-Semitic videos. Companies such as General Motors, Audi and McDonald's pulled out of YouTube. That means there's less money for everyone.

Now YouTube is trying to convince these companies to come back. And that's meant adjusting the algorithm that places ads.

It's daunting to think about the number of products Apple has created that have transformed how most people use technology: the original Mac with the first mass-produced mouse, the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad.

But fast-forward to 2017, and it appears that a lot of innovation is coming from other companies. Amazon has a hit with its Echo, a speaker device that responds to voice commands. Reviewers say Microsoft's Surface competes with the Mac. And now, Samsung's Galaxy S8 smartphone is getting raves because of its battery life and high-end screen.

There's a new brand on the Internet that's taking over some old ones — or at least old in Internet years. Yahoo and AOL are now under an umbrella company called Oath. The new brand has sparked more than a few jokes on Twitter and elsewhere.

One critic pointed out it sounded a lot like Oaf — and another asked if "Oof" was already taken. But with more than a billion customers, the combination has potential.

AOL CEO — soon to be Oath CEO — Tim Armstrong says consumers aren't really going to hear that name very much.

Donald Trump frequently boasts about starting a movement, and sociologists say they are seeing unprecedented grass-roots activism across the country. They credit Trump for inspiring people to become politically engaged on the right — and even more so on the left. And many of those activists are brand new to the scene.

There are renewed efforts at the state level to pass so-called religious freedom bills. LGBTQ rights advocates believe that's because local lawmakers are anticipating support from the Trump administration.

In Alabama, there's a bill that allows adoption agencies that are religiously affiliated to hold true to their faith if they don't think same-sex couples should be parents. The psychiatric community has found no evidence that having same-sex parents harms children.

The CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, has resigned from President Trump's economic council made up of U.S. business leaders. His resignation comes after a consumer campaign to boycott the ride hailing company because of Kalanick's association with the Trump administration.

In an email to staff, obtained by NPR, Kalanick said, "Joining the group was not meant to be an endorsement of the President or his agenda but unfortunately it has been misinterpreted to be exactly that."

Pages